Finding fan favorites: linebacker Devon Kennard is an exemplary role model

Every USC fan should be proud of Devon Kennard.

Kennard was quietly one of the finest athletes – and people – the Trojan family can claim as their own. Quietly is the key word though – Kennard gets less recognition than other USC alumni.

So why did a hero fall under our gaze?

He is a decorated football player, a successful college scholar, and one of the NFL’s most generous philanthropists. It exemplifies what it means to be a Trojan Horse, overcoming physical challenges with a fighting spirit, a can-do attitude, and a heart that gives back.

Trojan fans should know this. They’ve witnessed his excellence since he was the second-best high school prospect to come to the Trojans in 2009. His USC career had an exciting first season, when he made the first-team Pac- 10 All-Freshman and won USC’s John McKay. prize, awarded to the underclassman with the most competitive spirit.

His next two seasons were productive, but he missed the 2012 season due to injury. Yet instead of being deterred by his injury, Kennard saw an opportunity to redshirt this season and retain a year of football eligibility.

He returned to the team in 2013 – his best season to date – and finished the season on the All-Pac-12 second team in a winning season.

He then completed his master’s degree in communications management with a concentration in business management.

It would make sense to assume that Kennard was one of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft given the resume he built in school, and indeed scouts were impressed with his leadership and professionalism. intangible.

However, they were concerned about his physical attributes, namely his lack of explosiveness, body length and injury history. He fell in the fifth round, where he was drafted 174th overall by the New York Giants.

Football is certainly a contact sport where physical gifts can be advantageous, but the physical nature of the sport can cause scouts to overlook an athlete’s attitude, which usually proves even more important.

Kennard’s character led him to successes that no one thought he could have achieved. He immediately surpassed scouts’ projection that he would be on the bench or practice squad, becoming a starter before his rookie season ended. He continued to start his entire career with the Giants, throughout the 2017 season.

He signed with the Detroit Lions in 2018 and was immediately voted team captain by his new teammates. He remained captain of the team in 2019 and was even nominated for his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, an award which recognizes each season a player from each team who, according to his teammates, is the most exemplary in his charitable work off the pitch.

While in Detroit, he established the Devon Kennard Scholarship Fund for Underserved Youth in association with the Midnight Golf Program, was instrumental in launching the Lions Social Justice Initiative Detroit Lions Inspire Change and volunteered for ‘Hogs and Dawgs’ lineman. Academy.

Kennard enjoyed a successful career while modeling, and his master’s degree led him to a second career in real estate investing.

He’s a great USC footballer on and off the field.

However, you won’t find Kennard on lists of the top 10 USC athletes or even the top 50 USC football players of all time. So, again, why isn’t he known when his career is so remarkable?

Kennard was a star his entire NFL career, but for lower franchises that suffered multiple losing seasons. It is difficult to recognize individual greatness in a banal group. Also, Kennard has always dealt with injuries, but a few absences shouldn’t make it difficult to enjoy his game when he’s healthy.

It is especially difficult to understand why his name is not mentioned among USC greats when his character should stand out among so many other former USC sportsmen who were infamous for their tough behaviors or allegations. immoral behavior. Thus, the question becomes rhetorical. Why isn’t Kennard one of our heroes?

Kennard, being a person of character, is probably just flying under the radar, but humble people are exactly the kind of people who should be celebrated.

Perhaps 2022 will be the year Kennard’s greatness is fully recognized.

He plays in his home state with the Arizona Cardinals; he has the opportunity to be a leader on a young and exciting team that could make a deep run in the playoffs and, more importantly, he is in a year of proof. His contract expires after this season, so he needs to play at a high level to entice the Cardinals or another team to sign him in 2023.

Fortunately, Kennard has shown since 2013 that he is at his best when he has something to prove.

This is yet another of his admirable traits.

Ethan Inman is a freshman who writes about outstanding USC athletic alumni who are relatively unknown despite their accomplishments. His column, “Finding Fan Favorites,” airs every other Thursday.

Rebecca R. Santistevan